This weeks letter comes from the Pacific side of Panama.
John (my chef son), Maureen, (his significant other), Malcolm and I
flew over the range that divides North and South Panama to visit the
town of Bouquete. Unlike Bocas, which has many restaurants, Bouquete
has few and none that approach being gourmet.
We flew over the mountains with Captain Marvin Mathews.
John and Maureen are here to explore the possibility of opening their
own restaurant to cater to the growing number of retirees building homes
in and around this mountain town. Both Panamanians and foreigners are
buying land and building homes in these highlands, where the weather
is spring-like all year. Many of these newcomers talk of the lack of
variety in the existing menus to be found around town and John, with
his years of experience of running kitchens, might well have a good
Between the bougainvilleas in the garden of Hotel Panamonte. Pat
prefers the purple color to the red.
Maureen is a green-thumbed gardener who has years of experience growing
and selling plants with herbs her specialty. The soil on the slopes
of the extinct Vulcan (volcano) Baru is rich and the mists from the
mountains ensure a year round growing season.
Bouquete is noted for its annual flower show. Brilliant colors everywhere.
I am sending you some photos to show how marked is the difference in
the climate of this side. Bocas is tropical with palm trees and jungle
vegetation. Its temperatures seldom stray from being between 85 and
95 degrees. The humidity is high. Life in Bocas is boat oriented because
it is island life and has few places to go by car. The background noise
is Caribbean salsa until the early hours of the morning and then the
roar of the surf.
Bouquete is at three thousand feet and in the evenings you may often
need a fire and almost certainly a sweater. The vegetation is widely
varied and the background noise is the roar of the waters of the rivers
tumbling down their precipitous courses.
John and Pat framed in the window of the unfinished house.
One of the properties we visited was a large castle-like home that
was never completed. It was unchanged from when Malcolm and I first
saw it four years ago. It is situated in the forest by a roaring river
along the banks of which are pines and eucalyptus.
The river passing the house (top right corner).
There are various stories as to why the home was never finished. The
romantic one is that the wife died and the man, broken hearted, could
not bear to visit the site again.
It is refreshing to be away from Bocas for a few days. Before leaving,
I achieved much in my studio and I feel that I have well earned this
break. I am showing you two paintings. A week ago I showed the barn
raising scene but told you there was more detail to be added. We talked
about Amish women preparing a meal for the men and you will see them
now setting out the meal on a table in the shade of the trees. One man,
probably a dodi (grandfather) is taking a rest with his back to the
tree trunk. I have added several other actions in part to balance the
painting and in part to complete the narrative.
Pat's newest barn raising scene with more details added.
The second scene is a remembered landscape of the Shenandoah Valley,
the home of my barn studio and the Museum. The mood of this painting
is the opposite of the bustle of activity in the barn raising. I approach
the scene from the elevation of a bird coming to land. Once there, I
am the tree standing in the company of other trees who are my friends.
In silence we share the joy of the beauty of the Valley and the distant
Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Shenandoah Valley as remembered by Pat from Panama.
I found it satisfying to be switching back and forth between these
two paintings, between the work subject of the one and the peaceful
meditation of the other.
We will fly back to Bocas on Wednesday afternoon. Back to my studio
so that I will have something new to show next week.